Clarity First Newsletter,
January 15, 2021

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Speaking of learning, one of the things I’ve learned in riding a mountain bike is the rock or log you are on now is almost over. What is more important is where you are going next. Lift your focus to where you want to be. Then pick a line to get there safely. Your bike is designed to roll. Let it.

The metaphor, of course, is that the most corrupt,  inept, and dangerous presidential administration in our history is almost over. Amongst other things we can learn from it is that democracy is not a spectator sport. Let’s lift our focus. Where do you want to be in the coming days, months and years? Then pick a line to get there safely. Our lives are designed to learn. Let’s let them.

Happy Friday

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Why we should never forget 2020

“From the pews of a church where white deacons once refused to seat African Americans, a group of Black singers in Alabama reminds us why preserving our memories of this historic year is vital — even if we’d rather just leave 2020 behind.

“They’re singing ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the Scottish ballad synonymous with ringing in the new year. It begins with this line: ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot / And never brought to mind?'”

The soaringly beautiful voices in the soaringly beautiful old church are cut with images and sounds of Black Lives Matter protests. The clearly implied answer is ‘no, we should never forget again’.

Video/Article: You Might Be Ready To Forget 2020. This Film Reminds You Why You Shouldn’t


Endless growth is destroying the planet. We know how to stop it.

“In July 1979, shortly after installing a set of solar panels over the West Wing, Jimmy Carter did something peculiar for a peacetime president. He asked Americans to sacrifice: to consume less, take public transit more, value community over material things, and buy bonds to fund domestic energy development, including solar. From our vantage, this may sound very farsighted and bold. But any prescient, planet-saving leadership seen shimmering through hindsight is a mirage. The speech and the panels advanced a program with the narrow goal of energy independence, not decarbonization. Carter wanted to expand and secure the nation’s economic wheel beyond OPEC’s reach, not question it, shrink it, slow it, or ‘green’ it. ‘We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias [and] more coal than any nation on earth,’ he boasted in the speech. ‘We have the national will to win this war.’

“It’s a different event, buried in the Carter record, that offers a flash of the ecological vision often falsely ascribed to the ’79 energy plan. On the afternoon of March 22, 1977, between meetings with the prime minister of Japan and the National Security Council, Carter sat down in the Oval Office with a British-German economist named E.F. Schumacher. Four years earlier, Schumacher had achieved international fame as the author of Small Is Beautiful, a trenchant critique of the spiritual poverty and delusional frameworks of mainstream economics. His White House visit made him the most radical guest of a sitting president since Warren G. Harding requested an audience with Eugene V. Debs.

“Next to Schumacher’s “Buddhist economics,” Debsian socialism was reformist tinkering. Schumacher didn’t see liberation as a matter of reshuffling the ownership and management structures of the smokestack-powered growth economy. He believed a deeper transformation was needed to maintain a livable planet. This would require new socioecological blueprints ‘designed for permanence.’ As the left and the right battled for control over growth’s levers and spoils, Schumacher pointed out how both had become blind to the rise of growth as its own self-justifying, pan-ideological religion; its patterns of production and consumption, he observed, required ‘a degree of violence’ that did not ‘fit into the laws of the universe.’ Schumacher was not alone in his concern. Starting in 1970, a group of system dynamics scientists at M.I.T. began feeding data into a supercomputer to examine where humanity was headed if it continued to consume energy and materials, and to create waste, unabated. They determined that infinite growth was, in fact, impossible on a finite planet. Barring a major course correction, the team projected, growthism would result in an ecological systems breakdown sometime in the middle of the twenty-first century.”


Book Review: The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy


“It’s not just that the characters themselves are always there, but also the themes, which so often have to do with trying, failing, and trying again.”

“’Peanuts’ possesses and projects a critical, palpable, uncanny sense of humanity. It intuits and mirrors so much of what it is to be alone, small, and vulnerable. Human. There is a poetry to the strip, to the children, their problems, and the way that they try to work through them. And what was invented seven decades ago now speaks to us as strongly as ever.”

Article: The Spiritual Message at the Heart of ‘Peanuts’

Communication, Symbolism

Small minds, big symbols

[Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]

“There is a long history of the far right co-opting Norse imagery. Jake Angeli, the Trump supporter who stormed the U.S. Capitol wearing horns and displaying his tattoos, is just the latest example.”

Article: Why Far-Rght Groups Co-Opt Norse Symbols


Surveys suck. Conversations rule.

The heart and soul of my Clarity Brand Design process is the dialog interview, a 30 minute, open-ended discussion with a representative sampling of stakeholders. As many times as I’ve done it, I am consistently amazed at the clarity of understanding one can get about a customer’s needs or perceptions simply by talking to her or him one-on-one.

So, writing in Harvard Business Review, Graham Kenny had me at hello.

Article: Customer Surveys Are No Substitute for Actually Talking to Customers

Futures Thinking, Advertising Specialties

Our view of the future is limited by the constraints of today.

“A series of futuristic pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists issued in France in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910. Originally in the form of paper cards enclosed in cigarette/cigar boxes and, later, as postcards, the images depicted the world as it was imagined to be like in the then distant year of 2000. As is so often the case their predictions fell some way off the mark, failing to go far enough in thinking outside the confines of their current technological milieu (hence the ubiquity of propellors, not to mention the distinctly 19th-century dress).”

Article: A 19th-Century Vision of the Year 2000

Personal Development

Thich Nhat Hanh offers advice on using mindfulness to take care of your anger, and ultimately transform it into love and understanding.

Photo via Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation

“Look deeply at your anger as you would at your own child. Do not reject it or hate it. Meditation is not to turn yourself into a battlefield, one side opposing the other. Conscious breathing soothes and calms the anger, and mindfulness penetrates it. Within fifteen minutes of lighting the heater, the warm air pervades the cold room, and a transformation occurs. You don’t need to discard or repress anything, not even your anger. Anger is just an energy, and all energies can be transformed. Meditation is the art of using one kind of energy to transform another.”

Article: Transforming Anger into Love

The Coming Boom For Freelancers

When Dorothy Parker Got Fired from Vanity Fair

One-Half of Online Harassment Victims Attributed Their Experiences to Political Differences



Carolyn Franklin (standing) coaches her sister Aretha through a demo of Ain’t No Way, a song that Carolyn wrote.

“Some of the most remarkable footage of Aretha Franklin was taken in 1968, as she rehearses Ain’t No Way, written by her youngest sister, Carolyn. Diminutive and tomboyish in appearance, Carolyn is clearly in control of the session: she anchors the beat with a church clap, teaching her sister the melody while Aretha holds down chords on the piano. For the woman who ferociously demanded respect, Aretha appears meek, almost sheepish. Carolyn’s commanding presence and musicality are what shine.

“Yet it was Aretha who would go on to become the Queen of Soul, and whose story will be depicted this year in the biopic Respect, while Carolyn has been mostly overlooked, known – if at all – for a few songwriting credits. Her life and career as a songwriter, backing vocalist and solo artist, though cut short, is one of frustrated opportunity, hidden identity and fantastic accomplishment.

“She was a genius songwriter and singer but could never escape her sibling’s shadow – and died at just 43. Family and friends including Martha Reeves and Bettye Lavette celebrate the life of a cruelly overlooked artist.”

Article: A legend in her Own right’: Carolyn Franklin, Aretha’s Forgotten Sister

Video: Carolyn Franklin in de Studio met Aretha (Ain’t No Way)

Album Version: Ain’t No Way

Image of the Week

The image of the week is a photograph of a cake created by Russian baker Yulia Kedyarova. “Her sculptural cake creations feature mesmerizing designs that celebrate the cosmos and all of Earth’s living things.”

Article: This Baker Makes Amazing Cakes With Edible Galaxies and Secret Gardens Within


What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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